Local Murfreesboro attorneys educate students on rights when dealing with the police

Scott Kimberly is a criminal defense, family law and personal injury attorney in Murfreesboro (Sidelines/Connor Burnard)

Photo by Connor Burnard / Staff Photographer

Story by Nathan Mitchell / Contributing Writer

In part two of their three-lecture series entitled “Can The Police Do That?”, criminal defense attorneys Richard and Scott Kimberly helped clarify the rights of a person detained by the police during a traffic stop in the Business and Aerospace Building on Tuesday evening.

The Kimberlys defined a traffic stop (also referred to as a “Terry stop”), along with arrest, as the two most common forms of police “seizure.” Seizure is the law enforcement term for “restricting your liberties” and is what allows police to keep you from leaving, according to the attorneys. However, these two forms of seizure are entirely different. An arrest is when the police detain you of “probable cause” which is adequate evidence to believe a person is committing a crime. At that point, you are handcuffed and understanding your Fifth Amendment rights become crucial. A Terry Stop is when the police are holding you because they have “reasonable suspicion” you might have committed the crime, and they can only hold you until the stop is completed (i.e. writing you a traffic ticket). These types of stops are often shown within driving school courses similar to this san diego dmv course to students, as well as the importance of traffic stops and other road traffic laws.

Often times the line blurs between lawful and unlawful detainment during a traffic stop, and the two attorneys stressed the importance of knowing your rights when you’re pulled over by law enforcement.

“When you don’t know your constitutional rights, you’re crippling your ability to save your future,” Richard said.

Scott went on to explain that police pressure people into giving up their rights, knowing people either don’t know their rights fully or are too afraid to say no.

“There are only three things you are required to do during a traffic stop: provide identification, provide paperwork and exit the vehicle if asked…you’re not required to answer questions or consent to the police searching your vehicle,” Scott said. He explained that with “no warrant, no consent, there’s no search.”

Richard and Scott also emphasized that officers frequently pull people over with “a bigger picture in mind than just the traffic ticket,” and that the police are often looking for a bridge between reasonable suspicion for a traffic violation to probable cause to a bigger, unrelated crime. Any information you give voluntarily leads you to “walking across a bridge straight to arrest,” Scott said.

The attorneys made sure to note that they shared the utmost respect for law enforcement officers. They said the officers have an extremely hard job, and the decisions they make carry a weight and responsibility that few people understand.

“Just because you know your rights doesn’t mean you should ever be disrespectful to an officer,” Richard added.

To end the lecture, Scott provided listeners with a foolproof method to end any traffic stop.

“Ask the officer if you are under arrest. If he says no, you respond with, ‘I want to leave,’ and if he says yes, you better say, ‘I want a lawyer’ and nothing else. Be ready to face the consequences if it’s not the answer you wanted.”

This is the third year Richard and Scott Kimberly have presented “Can the Police Do That?” at MTSU. The third and final presentation will be on April 4th at 7:30 p.m. and will feature a question and answer session with pizza and refreshments. “Can the Police Do That” is sponsored by the College Democrats, College Republicans, MTSU Young Greens and MTSU’s chapter of Turning Point USA.

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To contact News Editor Brinley Hineman, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

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